3/30/11

Walter and Jenny: A love story....



So it occurred to me recently...I've never told the story of how Walter came into our lives.

For those of you who don't know, Walter is my dog. And although I know I'm a bit biased, chances are real good that he is the best damn dog in the world.

When I found myself living alone with four little kids, sleeping at night was difficult. I rarely slept through til morning, oftentimes waking up after hearing something that could have been a branch falling, or more likely, was a serial killer cutting a screen on a ground floor window. I slept with a knife under the bed for a while, my really big Wustoff Trident butcher knife, and later switched to a metal baseball bat.

After a while, though, I learned the worst thing that was going to happen was a midnight visit from the Barf Fairy. Sleep started coming easier.

But when Big Daddy started taking the kids every other weekend...well, my mind had 48 whole hours of solitude to conjure up a variety of different evils. I was convinced that a rapist or murderer was figuring out my schedule, and knew which weekends it would just be me inside that little ramshackle house, sitting on a couch, weeping and watching CSI.

I was a sitting duck.

I needed protection.

By this time Big Daddy had purchased his designer dogs, and after being chased around a park one day by Secretary and the Ewok dogs (that's a funny story, remind me to gab about that one later) I decided that it was time. I needed a dog, and not just any dog.



I needed a big dog. A manly dog. Not a dog that you could attach to a pole and brush away cobwebs with, I needed a dog with some heft, some muscle tone. With a bark that would scare away all of the burglars and sex maniacs hiding in the bushes outside my house. Well, maybe just the burglars.

I didn't want my kids to grow up with their only dog memories being those of dust mops that growled and pooped all over a house (apparently one of the chores the kids have at Big Daddy's is to pick up poop around the house. I'm assuming it's dog poo, of course). I wanted them to have sepia toned memories of a big family dog, the kind that sits in the front seat with you and can see out the windows. The kind that runs next to you while you bike. The kind that lays its head on your lap and drools while you eat.



And so one night, I loaded all four kids and a couple of their friends into the truck and we headed towards the Humane Society.

It was time to meet our dog.

We looked at the puppies first. Of course the kids oohed and ahhed over them, and admittedly, so did I. Their little round bellies, soft paws, tiny teeth. And they smell so puppy-liscious.

But there was no way in hell I was getting a puppy. By this time I was learning to admit my shortcomings and the things I was not capable of doing. Raising a puppy was one of those things. I simply could not bear to think of cleaning up pee and poop, of getting up all night to let a crying puppy outside, of having to teach it all the things a dog needs to know. I barely managed to do all of that with my four human babies.

So we headed to the adult dog section.

This is the section that always makes me cry. Ever since I was a little girl and my mom would take me on trips to the Humane Society this was the room that would leave me fighting back sobs and trying to discreetly brush the hot tears from my cheeks. There's something so heart wrenching about the big dogs, sitting in their long cement kennels. The ones who come up to the front of their cells, wagging tails, eager looks on their faces...gahhh. And then the ones who just lay there, curled up in a ball, one eyeball warily looking up at you. As if they're telling you, "Look, lady. The last family I loved put me in the car and took me here. I'm cold, I'm scared, I miss my people. I'll look at you, but don't expect me to ever fall in love again. It hurts too much." So you see, I have issues with the Adult Dog Section.



But in we went. We ran into some friends of ours, a nice couple with two kids who were Charlie and Molly's ages. The dad is an older guy, very funny in that "I look curmudgeonly but I'm really a softie" way. We told them about our decision to get a dog. The dad looked me square in the eye and with his face completely somber said, emphatically, "Every kid needs a dog." I will never forget those words.

So we found a cute black and white dog, I think a Border Collie? Her name was Bella and she was lovely. We were just about ready to take her out and see how she did with the herd of kids when she bit Henry. Not hard, but not just a little nip, either. With the number of kids I have running through my house at any given moment, a dog who bites would be inviting disaster. Bye bye Bella.



We walked further down the row of cinderblock kennels and learned from a staff member that they had just received several Yellow Labs from a rescue. Some dog-hoarder in Wisconsin had been busted and the Humane Society in our city took in some of the labs. Our friends, the ones who told me that all kids need dogs, had fixated on one beautiful Yellow Lab, a female named "Girl". "Awww you guys" I said, "She's so pretty!". The other Yellows were all boys, which bummed me out a bit. I was convinced that a girl dog was the way to go.

I started thinking that this wasn't going to be the day we met our dog.

Then the softie/curmudgeon dad tapped me on the shoulder. "You should look at the guy next to Girl" he said.

And so I did. The name on his card said "Boy", said that he was between 9 months/1 year old and he was a beautiful, smaller yellow dog. He was sitting on his haunches, leaning up against the smooth cement wall of his cage. As I approached him, his tail wagged halfheartedly across the floor...swish/swoosh/swish. His tail was wrapped up in a long white bandage, and there was a bit of blood that had seeped through the taped edges. "Oh Boy" I thought to myself, "what have you been through?".



We took Boy out to one of the runs to see how he did with the kids. He was gentle, and mellow. He ran and fetched and looked a little more lively than he did in the kennel, his bandaged tail wagging faster and happier.

The kids loved him.

And then, he took a break from the kid stuff and walked over to me. He sat down, leaned up against my legs and looked up at me with his chocolatey brown eyes. He sighed.

I melted.



You can guess the rest. Boy came home with us and that evening he became Walter. Why the name Walter? Not because of the book "Walter The Farting Dog" (although that definitely applies in this case). It's because I wanted to have a baby named Walter. When I was pregnant with William, I pleaded the case for Walter but was shot down. I vowed that someday, I would use the name. This was the day.

The very first weekend he spent with us happened to be a Big Daddy weekend for the kids. Walter and I spent 48 hours together, huddled on the couch watching seasons 1 and 2 of Weeds. We went for walks, I brushed him and we bonded over Chinese delivery and Mary Louise Parker. It was wonderful. By the time the angels came home from daddy's house, Walter had imprinted on my soul, and I believe I had done the same to him. From that weekend on, he was my shadow. He sleeps next to me while I work on the computer, sometimes trying to shove his 75 lbs. under the little work desk and my legs. He and I spoon in my bed, yes I'll admit that right here. I sleep next to a dog. He's my faithful walking partner, rain or shine, ice or snow he's always in the mood for a w-a-l-k (have to spell it lest he hears, ya know). Some of my best therapy sessions have been long silent treks through the parks and trails with my sweet boy.



It hasn't been all rose petals and violins, though. There have been many moments of frustration, disgust and woe when dealing with my dog. The tapeworm incident comes to mind first...nothing like seeing something alive come wriggling out of your dog's hindquarters. That about did me in. There was also the time I discovered that giving your dog scraps from an entire steak dinner isn't a bright idea. That's when we found out that dogs will often seek out the only room in the whole house with carpet to dispense of their projectile Hershey squirts. He has so many ear infections that I once Googled "putting tubes in your dogs ears" (you can't, by the way) but I have now become a master dog ear cleaner (and there are homeopathic ear infection solutions for doggies, by the way, let me know if you need the recipe). I've also learned the hard way to never leave anything edible on the counters; this includes sticks of butter, any sort of bread product or cooling pizzas.

He also doesn't like men or tall blonde women, go figure. I've decided that Walter is to me like the glass slipper was to Cinderella...somewhere out there is a man who "fits" my dog, and when I find him he may very well be my Prince Charming. Until then, woe is the suitor who makes any sudden moves around my dog.



Walter required almost zero breaking in. He came to us completely housetrained, and aside from that one unfortunate steak incident he's never once relieved himself indoors (there was that weird sprinkling in Uncle Lorie's basement that one time...sorry U.L.). He has never ever chewed anything other than his toys. He doesn't hump. He's not a crotch sniffer (he will spend a few seconds on your butt area if you have a dog, though). He is gentle and sweet with even the littlest, grabbiest of kids. He can be left alone for a whole day (as much as it kills me to do so) and when I get home I know I won't find a shredded couch or piles of resentful droppings.

When I get home, the first thing I see is his big juicy nose pressed up against the front window, his whole body shaking from side to side with excitement. He loves me, unconditionally. He has kept me company on some pretty lonely nights. All he asks for out of this relationship is food in his dish, the occasional ear rub and at least one side of the bed every night.

Every kid needs a dog, I once heard.

I think most women could use one, too.




A million thanks to my friend Whitney; dog-sitter extraordinaire and the official Walter photographer for the Hausfrau family.

3/28/11

Sometimes I think I'm a guy, and a huge "aha" moment.

I have joked about being a man trapped in a woman's body for just about as long as I can remember. No, no, not like in a trans-gender sort of way (relax my female friends, it's men only for me. So far.) but rather in the way that I've never felt super feminine.

Not while cheerleading in high school. Back then I always felt like the big oafish one, the one who always had cigarettes in my purse, beer in my trunk and would talk about having to go drop a deuce in the middle of the game (Nancy N., remember that one??).

Not during my stint as a make-up girl at Dayton's in my twenties. I was the one who crawled onto a bus in the morning, the vestiges of the makeup I wore the night before still clinging to my face, raccoon eyes and smeared lipstick. Yes, it was attractive. I'd get to work, clean my face there and have one of the other girls fix me up. I couldn't stand that job.

Not even while enjoying four pregnancies. Sure, I felt the "Mother Earth" thing, the joy of babymaking, the miracle that was happening in my midsection. But I never experienced what some people described as "feeling the most womanly I've ever felt". I felt embarrassed when I couldn't slide into a booth at Timberlodge Steakhouse though. I was a big, big pregnant lady.

Not while breastfeeding. I nursed all of my babies, for a long time. Yes, I'm one of those people. And yet, I wasn't ever all Nursing Nazi about it. For me, it was simply the most practical way to feed my infants. It was always there, always ready, always free. Yes, we bonded, and for that I'm grateful. I'll forever remember the sweetness of nursing, how a hungry crying baby could be soothed with a flash of boob, a warm blankie and mommy's lap. I remember how their eyes would sometimes roll back in their heads, how their tiny soft hands would tap, tap, tap on my chest. I guess that's kind of feminine, right?

But I digress. I've just never been into the chick stuff. I hate shopping, I loathe "doing my hair" (and will often put off showering just to avoid it), I have never had a mani/pedi (not together, not separately). I dress for comfort. Most days I'm wearing a sports bra under my fleece jacket. Because it's comfortable.

I'm not into shoes. I like my Keens, I like my ugly ankle-breaking Danskos. I hate heels and haven't worn them since my days as a flight attendant. They make it too hard to walk and they pinch the toes.

I like guy movies. Give me a choice between a Jennifer Aniston movie and a Clint Eastwood one and Squinty Clint will win every time. Yes, I will admit to being in love with "The Notebook" but I have also seen "Shaun of The Dead" just as many times. I like guy t.v. shows and guy humor. I like watching This Old House and sometimes listen to Car Talk on the radio.

But even more mannish, in my opinion, is my very attitude. I have always been kind of sluggish when it comes to reactions. This changed a bit after Big Daddy left, for the first time in my life I started having freakouts that required the help of several hens. But gradually I went back to my more benign self, because I learned pretty quickly that freaking out about things does absolutely nothing to improve a situation.

Doesn't matter what's going on in my head...the surface basically stays the same. Jenny in Freak Out Mode looks an awful lot like Jenny in Super Excited Mode. And yes, I realize how incredibly sexist this sounds...to say that women are less laid back than men. I know there are some hyper-sensitive, shrieking males out there just as I know there are women who have taken a very Jeff Spicoli attitude in life. But I think men are, for the most part, better at playing things closer to the vest than women. Sue me.

The other day I was driving somewhere with one of the kids. We were discussing Big Daddy and his relationship with Secretary. The kid brought it up, and seemed to really want to talk about it. Normally I brush this stuff off, as talking about those two only brings me down and if I'm not careful, can start a mental downward spiral that will take me to places I'd rather not go anymore. I can't even remember how it came up...out of the blue the child said, "I think Dad is really whipped."

I almost choked on my gum. It was a hilarious and very astute observation. Where was I supposed to go with this landmine in my lap? So I asked this child.."What makes you think that?".

They started in on things that they've observed over the past few years. "Dad scrubbed the kitchen floor and told Secretary that he did it and she just grunted."

Wait a minute. He scrubbed a floor? Now I was getting a little jealous. While we were married, he barely managed to scrub his teeth...I don't believe a floor was ever touched.

"If he gets us anything like McDonald's or if he buys us stuff we have to hide it from her. And he tells us to not say anything about it when she's around."

Hiding things from his wife? Granted, nothing new here, but still...when we were married we behaved more like "partners in crime" where things like fast food and impulse purchases were concerned. It wasn't until The End that he started hiding things. But he wasn't hiding Happy Meals from me, he was hiding $700.00 purchases at the Coach Store (definitely not buying stuff for me) and details about business trips that were anything but.

"He has to ask Secretary before he spends any money. I think all the money is hers." This is where it started dawning on me...she really does have his balls in a jar. Everything I've heard about her, whether it's from former co-workers of theirs, members of Big Daddy's family, the kids...has been similar:

"Oh she was so abrasive."
"She's super, super aggressive."
"I've never met anyone more completely in love with themselves."
"She will do whatever it takes to get ahead."
"She is the opposite of you, Jenny. Aside from the fact that she looks like she could be your younger, slightly skanky sister."

I had an epiphany in the car that day. It was like a little tiny lightbulb clicked on in my head. Not a 60 watt, mind you, more like the ones you put in your glove compartment, but a lightbulb nonetheless.

For the past 5 years, I've been blaming myself. I was sure that there was something I had done or didn't do, or should have done differently while I was married. Don't get me wrong; I placed some of the blame on Big Daddy, and definitely some on the shoulders of Secretary, but for the most part, in my eyes, the bulk of the blame rested on me.

When I heard my child talking about how things are at home with Big Daddy and Secretary, and that lightbulb switched on, I felt a piece of the scattered jigsaw puzzle of my life fall into place. Just a little piece, but an important one.

Big Daddy needed someone different than me. Someone I couldn't ever be, someone I don't ever want to be.

He needed a ballbreaker. He needed a controller. He didn't need another guy, someone to sit on the couch with, someone to have a beer with, someone to watch zombie movies with him.

He needed a Coach loving, heel-wearing, aggressive meanie. Someone to not only hold his reigns, but hold them in a deathgrip. He needed a feminine dictator.

When I realized this, when that lightbulb flickered, I was overcome with something that felt a lot like relief, and a little like vindication. I felt like Matt Damon in the scene from Good Will Hunting where he's in Robin William's office, curled up in the fetal position and sobbing after disclosing facts about his awful childhood...Robin Williams held Matt Damon and kept repeating,

"It's not your fault. It's not your fault."

And for the first time since this whole thing started I felt a dash of understanding, and a pinch of forgiveness. It felt good. It felt cleansing.

You couldn't tell by looking at my face, but at that moment? I was Jenny in Semi-Understanding Mode.

3/25/11

What To Do When Your Husband Leaves You. Part Two.



Note: I posted this and then took a 5 mile walk with my dog. As I walked, I thought about this and realized that it may sound like I think every divorce is going to devolve into a fight between a sneaky, lying man and a victimized woman. I don't. However, I went through hell with mine and I'd like other women to be able to get some advice if they happen to find themselves in a similar situation.

If you're headed towards divorce, please keep this in mind: Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst. I wish you the best.

So, I recently discovered the "Stats" tab, and already babbled on about how interesting it is to see how people find this blog. I check it more often now, and am blown away by how many women end up here by typing in, "What to do when your husband leaves you". Literally, at least a dozen a day. They end up here because of the first post I wrote about What To Do When Your Husband Leaves you, which you can find here.

I wrote that one kind of tongue in cheek, it contains some very real advice but as I read over it now, I realize when you are in that zombie-like state right after you're abandoned, you may not want to read about how much fun it is to have sex as a single woman or how the Divorce Diet is real. You want advice, serious advice, advice you can hold onto and if you want, wear it like a Superman cape to give you strength. You want to know that you're not the only one who has felt this way, not the only one with so many different feelings and thoughts ricocheting through your brain that you're half-convinced one will shoot out of your skull and accidentally boink someone else.

So here is my stab at Part Two of What To Do When Your Husband Leaves You. Read the first one if he's just left, or maybe he's left and come back a time or two.

Read this one when you know it's over.
Read this one before you sign your decree.
Read this one if he stops paying child support or alimony.

First off, here's a high five, or if you're not creeped out by stranger hugs, a big fat hug. I'm proud of you for getting this far. I hope that you have surrounded yourself with good friends (you only need one or two to get you through this, but don't be surprised if you find yourself with many more). I hope you realize, or are starting to realize, just how strong and amazing you are. I hope you have properly mourned the death of your marriage, and if you're still in the grieving stages, you have my heartfelt condolences.

You will be ok.

So let's do this.

1. Save every single email, every single text, every single note you get from your husband.
If I had done this, things may have turned out a little bit differently for me. Mine promised to pay all of my attorney fees. He promised to pay for my health insurance. He promised to do lots of things that never came to be. In fact, some of the things he promised, he ended up fighting and trying to do the exact opposite. If I had saved some of his earlier emails, it may have helped. Don't just save them in a file on your computer. Print them out. Every single one. At the very, very least, you will have some interesting reading material when all is said and done. I like the ones where mine just plain old lies his ass off, and the one where he obviously hit the keyboard after hitting the bottle and went on and on about regret and apologies and how the person he ended up with isn't "anything special". Those aren't going to do squat for me in court, but they do reinforce the fact that I am infinitely better off without him.

2. Hire the best attorney you can afford.

Beg, borrow, sell whatever you can live without (tools, golf clubs and other boy toys sell really well on Craigslist. Just sayin). Ask any friends you have who are attorneys, or who are married to one, or roomed in college with one. Get loans from family. Try contacting organizations in your city that help women in crisis or community groups that help low-income people. They may be able to lead you to an attorney who will help you free of charge, or who will allow you to make payments. You need someone who has experience with divorce, and lots of it. My first attorney was ok. She was cheap, and she had some prior experience. But she let a lot of stuff get past her, stuff that ended up costing me lots of money in the long run.

Another thing to keep in mind: unless your attorney was a good friend prior to the divorce, they aren't your buddy. They may be awesome, they may be super friendly and they may kick total ass at their job, but at the end of the day you are simply a source of income to them. You need to make sure that you keep tabs on what's going on, double check the information that they have about you, your income, your expenses, etc. And just a heads up: once you're out of money, you're out an attorney. It's not a case of them being a-holes or scoundrels, it's just business. But after sitting in someone's office weeping into tissues for a couple of months, you kind of form a quasi-friendship feeling about them. You have to get over that.

3. Read every single word on every single piece of paper, ESPECIALLY drafts of your Marital Termination Agreement.

Have a friend read it too, or your mom or dad or anyone who isn't going through a divorce. In our first MTA, my ex somehow got to claim all four kids for taxes. Yes, that's right: he leaves, doesn't spend more than 4 whole days a month with them, and then wanted to claim them on his taxes? He also wanted to claim the mortgage interest on our house which he hadn't lived in for 2 years. He got away with these things for a year. And then I got them changed. Stand up for yourself, even at the risk of sounding like a harpy in your attorney's office. Question everything. YOU are the customer in this relationship. Write down questions that pop into your head in the middle of the night, send an email or leave a message. The things you do now will determine your quality of life in the near (and far) future. Don't sit back and assume that others will look out for you. They will, of course, but you need to be in charge of your destiny. You must grow some balls and become your number one advocate. You can do it!

DON'T FORGET TO READ THE FINAL MTA BEFORE YOU SIGN IT! Take as long as you need, don't let anyone rush you. You sit down, and you read every last word. Some attorneys have been known to sneak in some changes between the last draft and the final, official MTA. Check things carefully: holiday schedules, length and amount of alimony/child support, who claims the kids for taxes, who's responsible for what marital debt, etc. Your attorney should be with you when you sign it, to go over it with you. If that's not possible, bring a friend who is familiar with your situation.

4. THINK AHEAD!

You and your kids are young right now. But that's going to change. You need to think of your retirement. When I got divorced, my husband had one small 401k, which we had to split, and part of it had to be used for some overdue tax payment. That shouldn't have happened. It should have been mine, the tax payment should have been his responsibility. I essentially got nothing. It was like I worked at a job for twelve years, gave it everything I had, sacrificed my youth and got nothing. No retirement, no severance package, no going away party with cake and balloons. Nothing. Make sure you get something for your part in the marriage.

And your kids. At this moment the biggest expense may be shoes and camp, but as they grow, so do their bills. School supplies are spendier (hello? Graphing calculators for three kids?). Sports will become prohibitively expensive. They will need driving lessons, behind the wheel classes, they'll need to take their driver's license test and there will be car insurance and gas money (not to mention a car to drive). They'll have to pay for college entrance tests and COLLEGE. Make sure all of this is addressed in your MTA. All of it. Don't worry about sounding petty. Make damn sure that your soon-to-be ex is assigned at least half of these expenses. This was one of my biggest mistakes. None of this was even touched on in my MTA, and now I have 3 teens, two who should be driving but I can't afford the classes. And considering that their father won't pony up $100 for new eyeglasses, they won't even ask about this stuff. Don't let this happen to you.

He's also responsible for their health insurance. Which he did take care of, for a while. Then he switched them all over to New Wife's insurance, which sucks. In my humble opinion, they chose the absolute worst package available. I don't know if it was a subtle way to say, "Screw you" to me or if they are truly the most miserly people on the planet, but it sucks. Some crazy high deductible, so high that I cannot afford to take my kids to the doctor. We've had to wait out ear aches and put off well-child examinations until I can afford to pay for the whole visit. We lost our awesome dentist because mid-way through a batch of appointments, my ex switched the insurance to a group that wouldn't pay. That bill was in my name (he would never agree to be the guarantor...get that in your MTA, too!!) and it's being lumped in with my bankruptcy. Now I have to face this dentist, who is a family friend, at school events and even though she knows it's not my fault I still feel like a deadbeat.

I was surprised to find out that you can go back and have the terms of the decree reviewed by the courts, and quite possibly have them modified if they are unreasonable. I found this out because I did the next thing:

5. Research. And read the fine print.

You have the internet. Spend some time researching divorce cases in your county. You will be amazed at what you find. One thing you will learn is that nothing in a divorce decree is etched in stone. It can all be changed, it can all be modified, it can all be worked around. There are more loopholes in an MTA than there are in a latch-hook rug kit.

If my ex-husband was able to go back and have his child support obligation reduced to zero dollars a month, you can bet there are loopholes. It's a matter of finding facts to support your claims, keeping good records and again, having the right attorney. As far as my case goes, yes, he was able to do that. But...and there's always a big but, isn't there? But I have done my research. I've gone through our MTA and found that there are certain conditions that had to have been met in order for some of the waivers and claims to stand up in court. Conditions that haven't been met...or were met, but only for a bit. These are the loopholes you'll be glad to find. Trust me on this one.

This next one is tough, but if I had done this...oh my. Life would be much different for me and the kids.

6. Dump the house.

Or at least consider it. Look at your mortgage, really look at it. We had three mortgages, which I had "kind of sort of" known about prior to the divorce, but didn't really think about it until I became solely responsible for the payments. Can you afford it? Is it going to go up? Are your property taxes affordable? How about the utilities like water and sewer and recycling? Add up your utilities and what you pay to maintain your home, include everything right down to how much you spend on gas for your lawn mower. How many years are left on your mortgage? Can you do it on your own? I don't care how much you get in alimony or child support, pretend that's not there (because sadly, out of 6 million women who are owed child support every year in the U.S., 2 1/2 million don't get it). Can you cover it? Unless you have a pretty good job and a smaller mortgage, you won't be able to do it. The house is the number one biggest piece of marital debt in most divorces. Don't let it become all yours.

When my husband left, he left me with close to $300,000.00 in house debt. He moved in with his girlfriend almost immediately, and closed on their new house (with a pool!) within a week or two after our divorce was finalized. They tied the knot less than a year later and are now expecting a baby (his fifth child. Seriously.). My milestones haven't been so sweet...I've gone through the humiliation of being left, the shame of foreclosure, the embarrassment of bankruptcy. My children and I are working through everything, and in the end I'm sure we'll all come out stronger people for it.

But, if I had been able to avoid even one of the many hurdles I've had to jump over the past few years, it would have made everything just a little bit easier. That's why I'm writing this down, that's why I'm exposing my past and my mistakes and my moments of bad judgment.

If I can help just one of you get through this and end up with fewer battle scars than I have, it will be worth it. I'm not an attorney, I'm not an expert, I'm not qualified or certified or accredited in any branch of the gnarled legal tree. I'm an average, every day woman, a woman who married a guy, had kids with him and went along with everything he said. I'm a woman who trusted a man with her life, and realized too late that it was a mistake.

Oh, and one more thing:

7. Don't have sex with your ex.

Based upon my experience, and the experiences of other divorced women I've talked to, this is fairly commonplace. They come back. They come back with hard-ons and crocodile tears and sometimes a bottle of wine. They crawl back into your bed and whisper to you about how they're sorry and they're lonely and they miss you. They do this even with a younger piece of ass waiting for them at their bachelor pad, sometimes they've even married this piece of ass and yet, there they are at your front door.

Don't let them in. Not into your house, not into your bed, not into you. Sure, at first it's nice. You close your eyes and the shitstorm that has become your life dissipates for a few minutes. You have your man back where he belongs, and you think, just for a bit, that you've won. Everything is going to be all better.

But it's not. When he's done, he leaves. He may stay overnight, but more than likely he'll go home to whatever or whoever is waiting for him. Just like you used to wait for him. You'll be left feeling used, feeling cheap and wearing the stench of bad decisions and regret like some cheap body spray from Walgreens. Don't do it.

Ok, I lied, TWO more things:

8. What if he stops paying child support/spousal maintenance?

First thing; don't panic. I mean, yes, you can panic a little bit because things like bills, electricity, gas for your car and food for your kids can't be paid for with wishes and dreams, so yeah. You can panic about that. But you'll get through that. Trust me, I fed four kids and kept the lights on with about $700.00 a month for a while. You are tough, and this will be one of the times you prove it.

But in the long run, don't panic. This is one example of the law being on your side. If a man owes child support and/or spousal maintenance and doesn't pay it, it's going to haunt him. Unless he goes all Unabomber and slides off the grid, his social security number, name, address and all that good stuff will be flagged. He will have problems getting loans, getting credit cards, buying a car...hell, he may find his auto insurance rates go up overnight.

You have to make sure you file the correct paperwork with your county, however. The first time he's late or misses a payment, you can call your county's Family Court division and ask about collecting child support. There is a certain length of time that you'll need to wait (it has to be a certain number of days/weeks overdue before the county can step in and pursue it) but it won't hurt to have the paperwork all ready to go. This is another instance where you need to keep diligent records. If he tosses you some cash, record the amount and date. A check? Photocopy. Promises to do it? Get it in writing. Keep the voicemail.

Past due child support and alimony cannot be dismissed no matter what. Not if he files bankruptcy, not if he loses his job, not if he becomes incapacitated and unable to work. And no, if he remarries and Wife #2 (or 3, or 4...) has a good job, her income cannot be touched. If she has a heart or soul, she'll help the poor man provide something for his kids, but her income is off limits as far as legally collecting support in arrears. Even if your ex is purposely under-employed, or is able to hide some of the money he makes or under-report it, the courts will only look at his income when determining the amounts and collecting the arrearages.

However...courts will look at all of his available resources when determining some of this. And having someone else who has been and is able to continue helping with the household expenses is definitely a resource. But this isn't something I know too much about, just relaying what I've read elsewhere. Situations like this are best left for your attorney, and someone else who you may get to know (and love, just a little)...a forensic accountant. Expensive, but they can make or break your case. If it's suggested you use one, and you are able? Go for it.

And that's all I have for now. To my regular readers, I'm sorry...we'll be back to our regularly scheduled fluff and filler in a jiffy. To anyone new reading this, welcome. I hope you've at the very least found some comfort here. I am sorry that you've found me this way, but glad you did.

Hang in there.

3/20/11

Wellness, Post Ten. Goodbye, 16!

John Cougar sang, "Hold onto sixteen as long as you can".

Sorry Johnny. They are outta here.

I am officially down one size in my jeans. WOOOOOOT. And my size 14 jeans are roomy. Sad thing is, I thought I had a well-stocked arsenal of jeans in this size. Turns out there's only one pair that I can find. So I find myself stuck...do I go out and buy some more pants that I know I'll only be wearing for a few weeks? Or do I suck it up, wear this one pair ad nauseam and throw in some of my classic black yoga pants to keep things exciting?

Given my perpetual poverty and the fact that I hate shopping, I think I'll go with the latter option. Sorry for any pigpen smell that may be emanating off of my lower half for the next few weeks, people.

I'm almost afraid to talk about the weight loss now, for fear that I'll jinx it. But I'm slowly moving into that fun phase..the part where you pull things out of your closet, things you've kept but haven't been able to squeeze into for so long. You try them on and I swear to God you almost cry when zippers can be zipped, when waistbands can fit over hips, when sleeves don't look like sausage casings.

I forgot that I lose weight the way an ice cream cone melts: from the top down. My face gets thinner, my neck gets skinny, my already freakishly small shoulders get smaller. Then of course the boobs go, they start getting smaller immediately but around the 25 lb. mark they really shrink. I was in a 38 DD in January. Right now I'm in 36 D and I'd bet my next paycheck that by May I'll be in the 34 C range again. It's kind of fun having big ones, but not when they rest upon a flabby shelf of belly. So I'm not shedding any tears as the twins dwindle.

The last to go is always, always the middle. That epicenter of corpulence...my waist, the belly, the muffin top. I have to keep a very positive frame of mind when it comes to that part of my body. It's so easy to glare at it in the mirror and feel the shame and the anger and want to just say "Screw it". So I try to keep my eyes averted, for now.

Oooh I almost forgot: an eBay friend of mine and my friend Gillian both told me about a fabulous website/phone app that I've been using for almost a week now. It's called My Fitness Pal and it's a FREE online site that helps you keep track of everything you eat and your exercise. I was looking for something similar to the Weight Watchers app and this one is the closest I could find. It's amazing how fast calories can add up...I had a coupon for a free entree at Noodles and Company, so today I treated myself to the Pad Thai with Shrimp. Holy crap...790 calories! Needless to say, the second I'm off of the computer I'm taking Walter for a very brisk walk, and dinner will be something very light. They have a fantastic data base of nutritional information for just about everything you could possibly eat. My one and only complaint is that the app isn't as easy to use as the website. That may be my piece of dung iPhone though, so take that caveat with a grain of salt.

But I do recommend My Fitness Pal. If you're on there already, or end up on there, look me up. I was really creative with my user name..Happy_Hausfrau (remember the underscore).

Before I close and head out on this dreary drizzly day, I have to give a huge shout out to Faith, my Wellness Coach. I wouldn't have accomplished this much without her support. When she contacted me back in December, and suggested we do this partnering, I was somewhat skeptical. Not about her or the service she offers, but of myself. If I had a dollar for every attempt I've made to get healthy, I'd be able to buy a pretty sweet Coach or a cute couch from the scratch'n'dent section of Ikea. My confidence level was low. Having Faith checking in on me, having her keeping an eye on me has made all the difference in the world.

Thank you, Faith. Couldn't have done this without you.

Now off for a walk. Must burn off this pad thai before it becomes flabby thigh.

Happy Spring, friends ♥

3/18/11

The Day Nora Ephron Inspired Me

My mom gives me magazines. Lots and lots of magazines. Mostly People, some Star (don't judge, you'd read 'em too, admit it), and some of the more matronly mags like Good Housekeeping (now you can judge, I won't be hurt) and Ladies Home Journal. I separate them and put them to good use around the house: a few in the upstairs bathroom (that's the bathroom that in theory is supposed to be for me and Molly, but judging from the pee splatter that I clean up daily, I think some boys use it too), some in the mancave bathroom, a few in the living room and the rest in my gym bag.

I happened to have about 3 minutes of me time the other day, so I began picking things up around the house. A blurb on the cover of Ladies Home Journal caught my eye...an excerpt from Nora Ephron! I decided to put off the picking up for another month, sat down with the magazine and prepared myself for the delicious treat that is Nora.

She didn't disappoint. The article was titled "The Ex Factor" and if you can believe it, it was about divorce. You can read it here. She had me at the first line: The most important thing about me, for a big chunk of my life, was that I was divorced.

I am at living in that chunk right now. And I hate it, but hearing that even the great Nora Ephron felt this way was comforting. I wish, with all my heart, that I could speed up this stretch of time, if only to get past this big blob of feelings and hurt and growth and change. Sometimes it seems as though I am getting over it, that I am making progress to becoming just Jenny, not Jenny the Divorced One or Jenny the Single Mom. I'll be feeling relatively normal, like everyone else for a few days, and then BOOM. A reminder will come and shove me back into that corner of confusion and disarray. That lonely corner where divorced women go.

The reminders can be subtle: a kid at school will ask me about my husband. "I don't have a husband" I always reply. They either shrug it off, or ask more questions, "Why? Why don't you have one? All mommies have one."

The mail...almost every single day I get something addressed to him. That was really fun when some wedding cards came, congratulating Big Daddy and Secretary on their nuptials.

The reminders can be glaringly obvious, of course. When the kid's behavior has me at DEFCON 1 and I'm stressed and tired and I want desperately to be able to look over at the father of my kids and wail, "IT'S YOUR TURN" but of course I can't...because I'm divorced. When they were a little bit younger and the barf disease would rip through our house like the Tasmanian Devil, and I was on my 5th tour of emptying the barf bowl, ready to puke myself, and most moms would have a husband there to help change vomit-strewn sheets and pajamas, it was oh so very obvious that I was divorced.

But, like all awful wounds, this one is healing. It will leave a scar, and not a small one, but I'm healing.

There was another line in the story that I liked.

And I survived. My religion is Get Over It. I turned it into a rollicking story. I wrote a novel. I bought a house with the money from the novel.

I've been threatening to write a book for a long, long time. I started it, a couple of years ago and got to Chapter 7, but haven't even looked at it in ages.

It's a fiction tome, a funny yet poignant look at how one woman's life is turned upside down when her husband has an affair and does the unthinkable...leaves her for the bimbo. The book actually bears a strong likeness to this blog, come to think of it. But of course, writing a story about a fictitious woman, albeit a woman a lot like me, gives me a little more creative freedom (ie., the ability to describe in greater detail the finer points of my marriage and divorce). "All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental" and all that jazz.

Reading this bundle of words and paragraphs from Ms. Ephron inspired me that day. I reserved a copy of Heartburn at our local library, for starters. And I began to think about that book I started writing. Began to wonder if mayhap I should start adopting Nora's religion of Get Over It and pen my own rollicking story. Or finish the one I've started.

All names will be changed, of course. To protect the insolent.

3/17/11

The kids asked for proof....

I like to tell my children that their mommy wasn't always this gorgeous, this well-adjusted, this glamorous. I like to tell them that I did, indeed, have some awkward years.

I like to tell them that at one point in my young adolescence, I bore a very strong resemblance to Napoleon Dynamite.

"No way, mom" they said. "There's no way you looked like Napoleon Dynamite" they said.

"Prove it!" they said.

And so I did:



I am trying to figure out what, exactly, is the most painful thing about this photo. Is it the Grease t-shirt, worn over the plaid shirt? Is it the beige corduroys? The burgeoning muffin top? The hair....oh the humanity...is it the hair???

My kids howled. My daughter refused to believe that she and I are clones, even though this could seriously be Molly on Halloween.

It was funny to find this picture. It reminded me of a life I lived ages ago, a life when it was all I could do to hold it together until the end of the school day, and then have to brace myself for whatever the evening held in store for me. I look at this girl, this 12 or 13 year old girl sitting on her grandparent's couch, and my heart aches for her. I want to go back in time, settle down next to her, put my arms around her and tell her it's all going to be ok.

I want to tell her about contact lenses, about that dusty exercise bike in her basement, about how school and her doing well in it could totally be a ticket to happiness.

I want to tell her to cherish her friendships, tend to them as you would a new garden. Prune them now and then, figure out which ones bring out the best in her and deadhead those that bring out the worst.

I want to tell her that even though she feels unlovable at times, going to keggers and acting like an ass isn't going to get her that love she so desperately craves.

I want to tell her to keep flossing, to wear sunscreen and underwire bras.

I want to tell her to be on the lookout for a nice guy who is smart and can make her laugh, but to make sure, make very sure that she ends up with someone because she loves him, not because he seems like the safest option. I want to tell her to never, ever settle.

I want to tell her to not worry, that some day she will be a mommy, and a great one at that. A mommy who is flawed and who makes her fair share of mistakes, but one who loves her children and treats them like children should be treated. I want to tell her that she doesn't turn out to be a monster.

I want to tell her that she is so lucky, so very lucky to be alive and young and healthy and that the world is indeed her oyster at that moment.

But most of all, I want to tell her that I love her. And that we are going to be ok.

3/15/11

Search Keywords: Interesting stuff

Blogger has introduced a new "Stats" feature on our blogs. It took me a while to see it, but when I did, I became intrigued by the information it had to offer.

I really don't know how many people read this blog. I can't figure out what the difference is between page views, visits, etc. And honestly, I don't care. I love writing this thing and the handful of emails I get every month have made it clear that some of what I've written has been a comfort to other women going through situations similar to mine.

But...my inner Cliff Claven is so very intrigued by this little Stats thingie.

It shows how many people have read your blog on any given day, where they live (like the country, not their address...), what browser they're using, little nuggets of information like that. They also show the search keywords that people have used, which is my favorite part of the Stats, hands down.

I've mentioned before that my blog shares its name with a German porn movie. I've never seen it, but according to what my Stats tell me, there are plenty of fellas from Deutschland and beyond who want to find it. I can almost picture them, hunched over computer keyboards, a stein of beer on the desk, typing in:

Big horny hausfrau
Happy Hausfrau big butt anal
Hausfrau sexy
Hausfrau having sex at home when husband is at work

Those are just some of my favorites. I wish I could see their faces when they click on mine and instead of seeing a zaftig blond woman being serviced by plumbers and electricians, they find my neurotic ramblings about John McCain and Big Daddy.

Then there are the sad ones. At least a dozen people a day find me when they sit down at their computers and enter these phrases:

What to do when your husband leaves you
Husband left for another woman
What to tell my kids when husband leaves
Husband leaves after 40
Husband leaves and then comes back

Those break my heart. You know why? Because that was me not so long ago. I know what it feels like to have the very earth crumble beneath your feet and not have the slightest clue about what to do next. I remember how utterly alone I felt, how abandoned I felt. I wanted to know that I wasn't the only one in the world who'd been dealt this crappy hand, and more than that? I wanted to know that I would be ok.

So I think I need to figure out more things to say for those women who find themselves here. I realize that me giving advice on how to cope with your husband leaving is kind of like John Gosselin giving advice on how to manage a mid-life crisis...but bear with me.

I promise I won't show up wearing an Ed Hardy t-shirt.

3/14/11

Red Tape

So, I haven't mentioned much regarding the legal stuff going on behind the scenes in my never-ending quest to get child support and/or restitution from Big Daddy for the amount he owes in arrears.

My attorney has taken me on as a pro-bono client, and there are not words in the English language that could properly express the gratitude I feel towards her, my friend's husband who initially set up the pro-bono deal, and the big law firm that employs them.

I understand the fact that I'm probably the smallest fish she has to fry, hell, I may even be plankton. I get it, really. So I'm trying to do what I can behind the scenes to help make her job easier. I look up facts, I compile emails, I research, I keep pretty scarily anal retentive records.

While doing all of this background grunt work, I have come to a conclusion: I could probably never work in the legal profession, unless someone figures out how to install an adderall pump into my body. My hat is off to anyone who makes their living, or has made their living, working in this arena. The verbiage, the sheer length of even the simplest of statements, the loopholes, the intricacies involved in the smallest details could drive a person to drink. Luckily, there is no booze in my house so last night it just drove me to finish off the fat free cottage cheese.

I'm up to my ears in paperwork these days. Preparing to file for bankruptcy (just waiting on one more tax form and then that's a go), finishing up my 2010 taxes, filling out applications and permission slips and scholarship forms for various spring and summer camps and activities for the kids...it's nuts. But doing all of this is a constant reminder of just how insanely expensive it is to live, and to be taking care of four other people. Sometimes this motivates me, gets those little fires burning again, the ones that keep me going. Sometimes, though, it dampens any fire I have left, and it leaves me feeling defeated. The past couple of months have left me feeling more of the latter.

Yesterday I took Charlie to Great Clips for a haircut. They are having a fabulous $7.99 haircut sale, so you know I was all over that like white on rice. So Charlie and I are pulling out of the parking lot, and who do we see? Big Daddy and his blushing bride, who were pulling out of the Costco parking lot. Laughing, smiling, all happy with themselves and their blissful Sunday afternoon full of shopping and togetherness.

I laughed, because that's the only reaction I can summon when I think about how bizarre it is to see the father of your four children, the man you thought was a decent guy, the man who is singlehandedly responsible for taking your somewhat mundane but secure life and ripping it to shreds pulling out of Costco with his pregnant ex-coworker/now wife. I mean, really. It's funny, in a macabre way.

So I laughed a little bit. Charlie crouched down in his seat and whispered, "Awkward". I slowed down to avoid pulling up next to them at the next stoplight. I had no desire to see them, in fact, after the laughter subsided I started to get that old punched-in-the-gut feeling. Haven't felt that one in a while, and I can't say I missed it. I thought about how long it has been since I've been able to go to Costco. I thought about the fact that it's two days until payday and I've got about $15.00 left in my checking account, less than a quarter tank of gas in my car and nothing but spaghetti in the cupboards and a half full gallon of milk in the fridge. I thought about how I still cannot breathe for those nanoseconds between the time my debit card is swiped and the little screen blinks "ACCEPTED". I thought about how my 15 year old daughter asked her dad to get her some new frames for her glasses and instead he presented her with her old pair, superglued together (and let's just say Big Daddy shouldn't aspire to be a glue-master anytime in the future, ok?). I thought about seeing his big dumb smiling face as he pulled out of the Costco parking lot and wondered if he has any idea how much suffering he's caused.

And that lit a little fire. Yesterday was busy, but last night before bed I did some research.

Big Daddy has a judgment against him, it's a public record so I feel comfortable sharing that here. I have judgments against me, too...so believe me, I'm not crowing from any pedestals. But the difference is, the creditors named on my judgments are companies I couldn't pay after the support stopped coming in.

The creditor named on Big Daddy's judgment? Me.

So, I figured if the companies who are after me have the ability to waltz in and clean out my checking account, certainly I must have some options when it comes to collecting...right?

Right. I do. And that's where I once again found myself cursing the miles and miles of sticky red tape. Because in order to begin the collection process with Big Daddy, I have to file several motions, I have to pay fees and send notices and serve papers. It's kind of like the child support collection process...the one who owes the money does nothing, the one who is owed has to jump through endless hoops and provide documentation and proof and firstborns and vital organs (ok, the firstborn and organs are just me being sarcastic, but sheesh).

Women in my position feel powerless most of the time. I often feel like a piece of trash floating in the ocean, being battered against the rocks from time to time and then getting swept out to sea again. It's hard to cling to hope, to keep a positive attitude, to stay motivated when even the littlest of victories come only after a seemingly endless battle. It's almost impossible to think of the future and how it may be brighter and better when you are literally clinging to today, just grateful to make it through until tomorrow.

But...we have the power within us, and sometimes all it takes is something as innocuous as seeing your ex-husband pulling out of the Costco parking lot to wake it up.

My power is awake, finally, after a long winter's nap. Puffy eyed, hungry, and a little crabby, but wide awake.

Red tape or not, here I come.

3/13/11

A Good Movie...

I rarely watch movies. I hardly ever go out and see them, I find it just about impossible to justify paying $10 to watch something that most likely will not even leave a fingerprint on my brain. Watching them at home requires an almost perfect storm of conditions:

1. There has to be a block of uninterrupted time.

2. I must be able to sit still for the bulk of that uninterrupted time, which means it has to be later in the evening.

3. I must be able to stay awake, too, which means it can't be that much later in the evening.

And, sometimes the hardest piece of the puzzle...

4. There has to be something worth watching.

Last night, the planets were in perfect alignment for movie watching. Henry was on a sleepover at a friend's house, Molly and William hit the hay super early (she was wiped out from a church retreat, he was spent from two days of hockey and a heartbreaking, nerve-wracking last game of the season), and I had the fun job of waiting up for my Manchild to get home.

Do you have a teen? Then you know the drill. Teen goes out, parent waits up. It's part and parcel of parenthood. I will admit to falling asleep on some of these nights, but usually I find it hard to doze when I don't know for sure where one of my kids are. I'm kooky like that.

So anyhoo. Charlie was out, I was still keyed up from William's game, Walter was snoring and twitching next to me on the couch (it's kind of like when you have a sleeping baby in your arms, you don't want to disturb them...a furry anchor, if you will). It was movie time.

I watched two. Yes, I know! High fiving my bad self...I can't tell you the last time I sat through two movies in a row.

Unfortunately, the first one was a stinker. "When In Rome". Bleah. I find Kristen Bell to be highly unlikeable, don't know why...she must remind me of someone who done me wrong. Aside from her, I found the whole thing to be snore-worthy. If not for that Diet Coke I chugged during the hockey game, this one would have made a great Ambien. Total waste of Will Arnett and Angelica Houston. Although I will say that Josh Duhamel is very, very easy on the eyes. You go, Fergie.

Surprised and delighted to find myself awake as the credits rolled, I decided to broaden my horizons and chose a less marketed movie next. It was "Little Children".

And I loved it. Ok, maybe not loved loved it, but it kept my attention way past midnight. Usually the only thing that can do that is a victim caught in my web, or a sick, obsessive bout of Angry Birds.

I know a movie has made an impact on me if I find myself wanting to read the book it was based upon. I'm now on the hunt for this book...just saying.

It's not a feel-good movie, just a heads up. You're not going to bounce away from it, filled with the warm afterglow of say, Pretty Woman or Toy Story. But you will remember it.

It stars Kate Winslet as a stay at home mom of a little girl. She's the one at the park, the mom who doesn't quite fit in with the Stepfords. Her marriage isn't really delved into with any great detail, but we get the idea that it's not one full of love and passion. It doesn't even seem as though she's too into motherhood, either, and that's one reason I want to read the book. Movies always skimp on the details.

And let me say this: The next time I hear or read someone describe Kate Winslet as "curvy" (the media-ism for fat), "big" or any other adjective used to describe someone who is bigger than a praying mantis, I will scream. She's gorgeous. She's lovely. She's real! There. Got that out of my system.

So back to the synopsis: Kate is Sarah, the outsider Mommy. She meets a stay at home dad at the park, a very good looking guy whom the Stepfords have dubbed "Prom King". Prom King is married to a career woman and has failed his bar exam after repeated tries. We get the sense that his wife (played by Jennifer Connelly, who is also lovely but needs to eat a sandwich now and then) (ok, just read on IMDB that her waist is 22". Really? My thigh is 23". Sigh.) is the one wearing the pants in the family, leaving Prom King feeling a bit emasculated.

It's no surprise that Sarah and Prom King hook up. I'll let you know that there are some semi-graphic sex scenes between these two, and I'll also let you know that I didn't mind that one bit. Big Daddy made me watch a porn once when we were married, and I was left feeling not horny, but sad. I see girls in porns and all I can think of is how awful their childhoods must have been. But scenes like the ones in this movie? They are just fine. It didn't hurt that the actor who plays Prom King, Patrick Wilson, is hot. Like cute-dad hot. He has that "where I have I seen him before" kind of face, but I think the only other movie I've seen that he's been in is The Watchmen.

So these two carry on their fling, and we meet several other characters who populate their small town: a registered sex offender who has moved back home with his mom, a bitter ex-cop who is a one-man vigilante set on making the sex offender's life a living hell, and a few others.

The sex offender is played by Jackie Earle Haley, who I believe was put on this earth solely to play creepy guys in movies. I'm sure he's a lovely man in real life, but holy buckets...that's a face you don't forget. He earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for this role, and he deserved it.

It just dawned on me that I am recommending a slower paced, less than joyful movie about adultery that features a creepy sex offender character. What can I say? I enjoyed it. If you are a Comcast customer with On Demand, it's in the Free Movie section this month.

Unfortunately, the Manchild failed to make it home. After about two dozen texts and phone calls that went unanswered, I fell asleep on the couch around 3:00 a.m. Got a call from him this morning...he supposedly fell asleep at his friend's house (the friend whose mommy happens to be my former BFF...Big Red) and "forgot" to let me know. Tomorrow morning, he'll discover that I temporarily deactivated his cell phone and "forgot" to tell him. Oops.

So if you find yourself with some time, check out Little Children.

And if you find yourself unable to sleep and fresh out of melatonin? Try that other movie.

3/12/11

Wellness, Post Nine...FINALLY!

It's finally happening. After nine weeks of sweating in my burka at the gym, it's happening.

I'm becoming noticeably thinner.

OK, "thinner" is maybe pushing it. But people are starting to notice something is different about me. And more importantly, I'm starting to notice it!

I'll be brutally honest with you here. Up until maybe a week and a half ago, I was pretty discouraged. I mean, I had seen some changes in myself since beginning this Quest to Wellness...the jeans were bigger, my energy level was way up, my bras were too big...but nothing like I had expected.

Back in the day, before I was in my mid-forties (holy CRAP, I am truly mid-forties now), if I wanted to lose weight I'd work out for a couple of weeks, eat some Progresso soup and boom I'd drop a quick 10 lbs. or so.

I remember reading articles and talking to some of my more "mature" friends about weight and age..."You get this thick waist, out of nowhere!" "You have to work twice as hard to see half the results". I didn't really think it would apply to me. I thought, "I may always have to watch it, but please. I can take a few walks and eat some Progresso Light for a couple of weeks and things will be just fine."

Uh huh. This endeavor has been a remarkable wake up call in so many ways. For starters, I am coming to grips with the fact that I'm aging. And I'm not saying that in a horrified voice, really. I mean, there are a lot of things in life that you can put off or prevent or deny, but aging isn't one of them. Every day, every minute, we are growing older.

I used to fear it. I used to think that getting older meant disappearing (and in some ways I think that's true...I am working on an essay about becoming invisible after 40...it's crazy). I used to think that the best years of my life had come and gone, and all that was left was watching shows on CBS, eating Activia yogurt and raving about how great Helen Mirren looks.

Now it's dawning on me: aging, like just about everything else that's inevitable in life, is just as good or bad as you make it. Just like watching your children grow up, it can be painful and fill you with melancholy. Or, it can be a chance to learn and grow and take roads in life that you've never taken before.

A couple of weeks ago I was bemoaning the fact that the person in the bathroom mirror still resembled a doughy Michelin Man. "All of this hard work and there's barely a dent!" I cried. I actually wept a little, feeling sorry for my pudgy self. "If I was 34 and was working this hard I'd be down two sizes already" I said to myself. And here I was, still in the big girl size 16 jeans, still sporting the hamhock arms, still wearing the bundt cake around my waist. Life is cruel.

And then I had an epiphany. Yes, ten years ago, I would have slimmed down much faster. I would have seen results twice as fast as I'm seeing them now. But...

Ten years ago, I was a different person. Ten years ago, I was still married to someone who treated me like shit. Ten years ago, I was just beginning to feel the first faint stabs of worry about my marriage. Ten years ago, I had four kids aged 7 on down who needed me literally every second of the day. My life was a blur of wiping butts, making noodles, picking up toys, reading books, doing laundry and trying to keep a happy face. The fact that I could lose weight faster, in hindsight, doesn't seem like such a prize when I look at it from that perspective.

So, it's taking longer than I'd like. Big deal. Like my metabolism, my need for instant gratification is waning with age. I'm growing more and more patient with each passing year. I'm finding out that good things really do come to those who wait. This is something that the 34 year old Jenny couldn't have even grasped.

This week also marked the second week of no booze. I'm trying to ignore the fact that in the two weeks of not drinking I've seen my biggest physical change. Because that means either one of two things: either I was drinking more than I care to admit, or it's a huge coincidence that weeks of effort finally paid off right when I went off the sauce. In hindsight, I'd say it's a combo of the two things.

The good news is, the transition from Chick Who Likes Her Wine to Chick Who Orders Ice Water has been 100% painless. Seriously. No cravings, no drooling as I pass the liquor stores, no wrestling with inner demons when a friend offers me a beer. I even played the role of designated driver when some of my hens and I went to see an old Minnesota classic bar band play last week. Not only did we have a total blast, but my God, it's so much cheaper when you stick to ice water!

I'm reminded again of how much I love those hens: some have been tiptoeing around the subject, trying to be respectful, trying to ignore the elephant in the room. And then there's some who just ask, 'So how's it going without the booze?'. I love 'em all. My BFF hasn't joined me on the Abstinence Express yet, and I'm not bugging her about it. I'm not judging her about it. I'm still able to hang out with her and have just as much fun as we did before. The only difference is now I clearly remember our conversations and I don't cry as much (I can be a weepy drunk, apparently). I'm here for her if she decides to stop for a while, I'm here for her if she doesn't. That's what friends are for.

Will I drink again? Probably. But not now. Not today. Today there's a kid to pick up from work, one at a church retreat, one in a hockey tournament and one who just wants to hang out with mom. I'm going to do all of that, plus go to the gym, play the role of dutiful daughter and get some laundry done. There's no room for a glass of wine today. There will be, some day.

But not today.

Stay well, my friends. It's worth it ♥

3/10/11

Letting Go of the Anger

I am a work in progress. That's what I always tell myself. I am not the same person I was 10 years ago, or 5 years ago, or even a year ago. The ability to change is one of our greatest gifts we have as humans, and one I think a lot of us overlook.

Change what you can, learn to deal with what you can't. That's become my inner mantra lately.

I'm working hard on changing the things I can: my fitness, my parenting, my outlook on life, my income, etc.

One thing I'm continuously finding myself stuck at?

Anger.

I don't feel a lot of it, and certainly not constantly. But it spikes up when I least expect it, and when it does, it feels like bumping into an intruder while walking to the bathroom in the middle of the night..."What the hell are you doing here??" I want to ask it.

I want to change this part of me, the way I react to anger and the way I let it get the best of me.

I want to learn how to let go of it, for good. I'm not naive enough to think that I can eliminate the feeling of anger from my life, God knows there are infinite sources and in all honesty, I think anger can be a very positive emotion in some cases (think about it...it was my anger about being too fat for my jeans that got me back to the gym). But I tend to let anger curl up in a little ball and rest right on my heart, let it seep into everything like a bad flavor instead of shooing it out the door like I should.

And that's when I do things that are so not good for me, or anyone.

It's when I send a bitchy text or email.
It's when I say something hurtful to someone I love.
It's when I do something self-destructive, like pour a glass of wine or eat something I shouldn't be eating.
It's when I withdraw into my own little miserable bubble.

I am angry at anger. Go figure.

To figure out how to learn to let go, we have to think about how we were taught to handle things when we were growing up, and learn from that.

When I was growing up, I spent the majority of time with my mom and stepdad, with some weekends/holidays spent with my dad and stepmom.

At my mom's house, anger was dealt with in one of three ways: screaming/yelling, name-calling/profanity and physically. Anger was a constant in that house. I'm not saying it to be all "woe is me, it was awful!", just stating a fact. There was fighting, there was yelling. There was physical stuff. There was road rage and demeaning name calling and sarcasm.

At my dad's house, anger was dealt with one way: silence. It wasn't acknowledged, it wasn't talked about. It was folded up into a neat little square and filed away. And then there was the silent treatment. The silent treatment could be temporary, say a day or so, or it could go on for years.

And that's how I learned to deal with anger.

I spent a good portion of my life doling out the silent treatment. The grudge, if you will. It's how I became the Queen of Shutting People Out.

But I've also gone down that other path. I've yelled, I've said truly mean things. I've never hit, though. That's one positive in all of this. I've never hit. The mean things I've said have mostly been to the kids at the very tiptop of a stressful situation. I've called them names, like Mr. Furious and Molasses and Rainman and even worse, I've called Charlie names that I regretted the second they slipped out. Lazy, dumb, selfish, manipulative. Yep, I'm admitting that here. I will say that the times I've let those zingers fly have always, ALWAYS been said in the morning, trying to get him up and out of bed to make the bus. I'm usually in tears by the time I let them out, usually at the very end of the thin, fraying rope I hang on most days. And then I'd get it in return from Charlie, and saw the vicious cycle in the flesh.

That's when I stopped. When I realized that Charlie was mirroring me. Returning my venom with some of his own. For just a moment, I imagined grown up Charlie, dealing with a child of his very own in the same way I was dealing with him. I saw the chance right then and there to stop this pattern, to change it. And so that's what I've been doing.

Funny how it goes...when you stop and take a moment to recognize not only what you're feeling but how you handle it, time slows down for just a bit. It's almost as if you can see that dark cloud of anger building up right in front of you, preparing to rain down and saturate you and everything around you. Stopping, and acknowledging it gives you an umbrella.

This has been another work in progress for me, this whole Anger 101. The results are good. I'm able to step back now, hold that inner mama bear at bay for a while. I have found that removing myself from the situation works well. Charlie and I still have those mornings, but now? I state to him, calmly and quietly, his options: get up, get dressed and get the bus, or miss the bus and find your own ride. Of course, I'll still drive him if he's close to being tardy, but I haven't had to do that in at least two months now. One morning, last week, he missed the bus. I had to work that particular morning, had to get myself and William ready for the day, so driving him wasn't a possibility.

"What am I going to do, mom?" he wailed.

"Call your dad." I said. And he did. And Big Daddy picked him up. Kudos to all three of us, that morning. Me, for not lashing out. Charlie, for asking Dad for help, and Big Daddy, for putting on his parenting hat and stepping up to the plate.

Of course, I'm only one half of the anger management team for my children. They have another teacher, at another house, and I have no clue what goes on there. I do know that when one of my kids calls me a lazy fat ass, they didn't just make it up on the fly. I know they've heard it somewhere else, most likely uttered by someone they look up to. And that stinks. The kids still talk about a cat-kicking incident that happened at our old house a long time ago, again done by someone they look up to, and have come home jabbering about the time they saw a tiny little designer dog get kicked across a room. That stinks, too, but aside from letting them know how wrong that is, there is nothing I can do about it.

I'm changing what I can, and I'm learning how to deal with what I can't. So far, it seems to be working.

Have a peaceful day, my friends.

3/7/11

McCain, Final Chapter: Conclusion

And so, after that Friday sleepover date, we had an early dinner date the following Tuesday. The kids go with Big Daddy on Tuesdays, from about 5:00 until approximately 8:30. McCain picks me up around 6:30, and we head out to another restaurant that we'd previously enjoyed.

This dinner was not nearly as indulgent as the first. For starters, only two glasses of wine were had (by me). He had margaritas.

The conversation was also flowing less freely. I was exhausted, so I certainly take most of the blame for that. I get up around 5:30 every morning, and that particular day I had subbed at the pre-school all day long. Don't get me wrong: I adore, ADORE the little ones, but it makes for a very tired hausfrau by the end of a day.

I don't recall any subjects we touched on with much clarity, but we talked a bit about our past experiences together. And I don't know if it was his intent or not, but I started to feel like shit all over again. I was reminded, again, of how mean I was. And again, I apologized. At this point, I was getting tired of the continuous admonishments over my past transgressions. I started to feel the old "fight or flight" instinct bubbling up (or maybe that was the cheese fondue?). But what can you do? Do you keep apologizing, do you suck it up or do you ignore it?

Yes, I am not the warmest person in the world. Yes, I tend to present a rather benign expression to the outside world. It's hard to tell when I'm sad, lonely, excited, mad, whatever. The only gauge I really have is my eyebrow crease, and sadly with my advancing age that sucker is pretty much set at "deep".

I take the responsibility for not properly conveying my feelings to John McCain. But, on the other hand, one shouldn't have to constantly defend themselves for things they've done in the past. Unless it's something like drowning kittens or running a Ponzi scheme. Then you may have some explaining to do. But for being a bad communicator? I don't think so.

Dinner was over, and it was nearing my curfew time. By curfew, I mean the time the kids get home from Big Daddy's.

As we walked out to McCain's car, he asked if I'd like to see pictures from his latest trips. This is something that I really like and admire about him: he has seen, and continues to see, the world. He takes off on his own and goes places. I have to admit, I'm actually jealous. I can't imagine what it's like to have that freedom, both personally and financially, to just take off and explore our planet. I think it's a very cool thing.

"Do you have to be home soon?" he asked. "I guess I can stay out a little longer" I replied. I was feeling some guilt over how soon my kids would be tumbling through the front door, greeted only by Walter and an otherwise empty house. I thought about the ensuing fight over the remotes, about the mess I was sure they'd be making while ransacking the fridge and cupboard for food, and the resentment I imagined they'd feel because mom wasn't there.

But we headed back to his house. In my head I had thought that we'd sit on a couch, and look at some photos of his vacations. We ended up sitting on the couch, but he had the pictures on a disc that played up on the aforementioned new t.v. So we settled in and the slideshow began.

Lovely pictures. Lots and lots and lots of lovely pictures. Pictures of Grecian streets, mountains, sunsets, beaches.

And several pictures of another woman.

Now, I'm not a jealous type. I used to be, back in my dating days. Crazy jealous. Like, dig through drawers and old photos kind of jealous. But that abated after my divorce. I learned that dwelling on someone's past is like trying to change who they are...you can exert lots of energy doing both, but ultimately, nothing will be different when you're done.

That said, I found myself becoming a little more uncomfortable every time the chick showed up. Were they lovers? I don't know for sure. But references to "our hotel room" and "that's where we slept" made me think they were a little more than travel buddies. I wondered if I should have brought my wedding album for us to page through...the locale was nowhere near exotic but the idea was kind of the same. "Look at pictures of a person I was involved with."

I fell asleep twice during the picture show. I couldn't help it, what with the full belly and the long day. Once I started having a dream about chasing a kid on the playground and for a second I though I had been yelling in my sleep. If I did, McCain didn't say anything. I don't even think he noticed I had dozed off.

Now, just between you and me, here's where I started realizing that he and I probably have very, very different ideas about how the times we're together should be spent.

As I've mentioned a few hundred times before, my time "off" is rare. Rarer still are the times I'm willing to leave my family alone while I am off doing something superfluous. Not to say that tending to my love life is irrelevant, but if my kids do have to fend for themselves, it had better be for something pretty important, or at the very least, something pressing.

Looking at pictures, especially pictures of some other woman? Not pressing.

Now, if we had been spending this bonus hour doing something else...oh I don't know...can you use your imagination? The guilt would have been tripled but I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have nodded off. The only hitch there was, I didn't feel like doing anything else other than napping.

This night left me feeling sad. Sad, because I knew that the result of this little reunion was going to be the same as our others. Sad, because part of me, the really hopeful but not too realistic part of me, had dreamed of this being my happy ending, the one where everything just magically comes together and I ride off in the sunset next to a man who adores me and will make everything all better. Sad, because I felt like Jenny the Evil Bitch all over again.

The death blow came the following week.

Some of my friends and I had talked about having a possible group date. The friends and their husbands/dates, and me with John McCain. When he and I first hooked up a few years ago, I was in my hermit stage. Sheltering myself from the shitstorm that my life had become, I was more like a lone wolf than a pack animal. But then, I gradually started re-connecting with some of my high school friends. John McCain did not like this. In fact, he even brought that up during our more recent night out. "Your friends were a bad influence on you" he said. This stuck in my craw a little.

And now, at this point in my life, time spent with my friends is important. No...scratch that.

It's essential. I need to be with my friends. And if someone is going to be part of my life, it's imperative that they not only put up with my friends, but don't mind hanging out with them now and then.

So when I brought up a potential night out with my friends, he balked. And that's kind of what did it for me. That was essentially a big red letter X buzzing in my brain, not unlike the one that you see on Family Feud when someone gets the wrong answer.

BZZZZZZZZ. Wrong answer.

I wasn't asking him to become best friends with my friends and their husbands/boyfriends. I wasn't asking him to spend every weekend with them. I was asking for one night.

So, after that question we went back and forth once or twice, and then nothing. I ended up going out on that date with my friends. It was two of my married friends and their fabulous husbands, and my date was my friend Lorie. She and I are kindred spirits, and have been hanging out a lot. So much that her kids have started calling me Uncle Jenny. More on that later.

So back to the McCain stuff. I could have handled this one differently, that's for sure. I could have stood up during the Disney movie and said, "I don't like these kinds of movies. Let's find a Bourne movie or even an old Bruce Willis movie, anything, ANYTHING but this."

I could have turned to him during the slideshow and said, "I don't like seeing pictures of old girlfriends."

After I asked about the group date night, I could have said, "My friends are really important to me, and it would mean a lot if you could at least pretend to want to meet them."

But I didn't. I did my usual thing, which is to slam the door (the figurative door, not a real one. I'm not a slammer) and walk away. I suppose it would be good if I told him how I was feeling (ya think, Jenny?) but I sort of feel like I've done so much damage already that nothing I say or do at this point would make any difference. He was nice enough to accept my apology, but also kept rubbing my nose in the past.

I feel bad. But I don't think there was anything implied in our first night together. We talked, we drank, we fooled around. There was no mention of picking up where we left off. There were no promises made or contracts signed.

I wanted to clear the air, but I fear that I've only clouded it up even more. And that's why I feel bad. I should have left well enough alone.

But I also feel like now I have a better grasp on what I need, and what I don't need. I need my friends, I need my kids, every once in a while I need a warm body next to me in bed that isn't a dog or a child with flailing limbs.

I don't need to be reminded of the mistakes I've made. I do a fine job of flogging myself, thank you very much. I don't need someone packing my bags and sending me off on a guilt trip if I don't want to go out one night. Besides being a black-belt in self-flagellation, I'm also the queen of guilt. No need for any assistance there.

Like I said the last time I wrote about John McCain, I wish him nothing but the best. I want him to find a woman who has the time, who has the attention span and has the readability that I lack. She has to be out there somewhere, and I really hope he finds her.

As for me?

I think Uncle Jenny needs to steer clear of the boys for a while.

3/5/11

McCain: The final chapter

Yes, boys and girls. This one is closed.

I went into it with an open mind. At best, it would have been the gateway to a fresh start, a new beginning with someone from my past.

At worst, it would be a face to face apology, a catching-up dinner, and nothing more.

It was like watching a short clip of my life, on fast-forward. Let's start at the beginning, shall we?

The first "date" was when McCain and I were going to get together, face to face, so I could reiterate my texted apology in person. I was as nervous as one of Charlie Sheen's attorneys that night. It had been AGES since I'd had to dress like a grown up, and not wear my usual lumberjack get up of fleece and Keen boots. I picked out a shirt from my eBay inventory, a "stately" crisp white blouse with ruffly things at the neckline. Here is where I remembered that a smart girl always has a backup outfit: when I put it on, I looked exactly like Jerry Seinfeld in the puffy shirt. Don't remember what that looked like? Let me refresh your memory:





That was my first bad omen. I had no other clothing options aside from too-tight long sleeved t-shirts from the Gap or big blocky sweatshirts. So Puffy Shirt, it was.

He picked me up, and I have to say that it was nice to see him. But I was a bit dismayed that my reaction to seeing him elicited only warm fuzzies, like the kind you get when you see a favorite old teacher, or one of your friend's dads. Not the ooh la la sparks that set the stage for a night of flirty banter with an underlying note of sexual tension. I found myself wondering whatever happened to Mr. Johnson, the kind of cuckoo Civics teacher from high school.

Anyhoo. So we went to a darling and delicious restaurant that we'd been to before. And the man does like to eat, which I always admired about him. We had two appetizers and two giant main courses. We also had three, yes, THREE bottles of very good wine. One thing that bugged me a bit during dinner was the fact that he kept bringing up instances when I had been less than nice. Sadly, there were plenty of those instances, but still...I apologized. That was the whole reason we were sitting there, no? But he kept at it, very subtly. "You weren't happy that night" or "That was another time you were acting cold." He kept saying, too, "You're so hard to read." Don't read me, man. I'm not a book. And I'm about as deep as a baby bathtub, so stop trying to figure me out. But did I mention there were three bottles of wine that night? There were.

So by the time the check comes, I'm no longer feeling self conscious about the Puffy Shirt, I'm letting the references to my prior bitchy behavior slide and I'm starting to think that yeah....yeah, maybe that is something ooh la la I'm feeling now. And off we went to McCain's house.

By this time it was pretty much a given that I was sleeping over, regardless of what happened. He showed me his newly remodeled basement, which was gorgeous. I am really proud of him, and happy for him, that he had this done. He had always been kind of reluctant to show any of his house, and we'd always ended up in his bed after prior dates simply because that was the only place to sit. That used to be kind of a sore spot for me. I mean, I know I'm not exactly Virgin Mary but still, it's nice to sit on a couch and be social for a while before I lose my pants.

So we decide to watch a movie. He opened another delicious bottle of wine, I got comfortable on the couch and waited for him to figure out the t.v. It was a new t.v., a lovely giant flat screen. He fiddled with it and what should flicker to life on the screen but the opening menu for Disney's "The Princess and the Frog". Now, to clarify, McCain does have a young niece that he dotes on, he even has a bedroom for her in his newly remodeled basement. So the fact that a single guy in his 50's had recently been watching The Frog Princess movie wasn't as creepy as it sounds. But....

He said, "Let's watch this."

Ahem. Perhaps it was the two bottles of wine sloshing around in me, maybe it was the impending snooze that I felt coming on, but I didn't fight it. In fact, at first I thought he was kidding. But he hit play and settled down on the couch next to me.

I spent the next hour or so playing the game that got me through most animated movies I've seen over the past 16 years: "Name The Celebrity Voices". I got all of them wrong in this one, besides Oprah and John Goodman. I can't believe they didn't have Morgan Freeman at least do a cameo.

This movie choice was troubling to me, even in my tired and inebriated state. I'm 44 years old, I have four kids and exactly 4 nights a month without kids. Nothing even remotely Disney-related should show itself during those 4 precious nights (unless one of my lovahs ever finds out about my sick and wrong feelings towards Gaston from Beauty and the Beast and decides to surprise me. But that's not relevant to this story). The fact that McCain not only considered it, but actually followed through and played the thing in it's entirety? Red flag.

I would have watched pretty much anything else. Seriously. Even the news would have been better.

So, skipping over the Peaches and Herb part of the story (Reunited, get it?? I guess only the old farts like me will remember that song, but the bad joke stays). Ok, I'll dish a little. We did end up in bed. And it was fine. When I've been drinking I'm not exactly 100% present for the romance, but according to my crazy hair the next morning, it was fine.

The drive of shame was no less awkward than it was the other dozen or so times. We said goodbye, talk to you soon, etc.

The next (and last) date was the following Tuesday. And again, we ended up watching something on that same t.v.

It was after this date that I did some real soul-searching, and came to a conclusion: It's not that the timing isn't right, it's that we are in way different time zones.

Stay tuned.
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